Hands up. Don’t Shoot.

By: Sarah Stortz

On Aug. 9 of this year, in Ferguson, Mo., a 17-year-old black, unarmed teenager named Michael Brown was shot several times and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, for suspicion of theft. His body was left uncovered in the middle of the street for residents of the neighborhood to see before it was loaded into the back of an unmarked SUV.

This eventually led to a peaceful protest of about 100 people at the Ferguson police station, demanding justice for the unwarranted event that had occurred, only for the police to respond by sending in backup troops armed with tanks and rifles, eventually turning the protest into a violent rampage.

Something to note is that this recent police brutality isn’t a unique instance against people of color. Some examples include Sean Bell, another black man who was unarmed, who was shot and killed by the police the morning before his own wedding and Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., an elderly black man, who accidentally used his life alert, causing police to be at his door. When he insisted that he was fine and that he didn’t need help, the police then proceeded to break down his door, tasered him and shot him to death.

A common pattern that frequently shows up is that the police automatically assume that the men have done some kind of criminal act just because of the color of their skin.

According to FBI records, between 2005 and 2012, a white police officer uses brutality against somebody who is black almost two times each week. Nearly one-fifth of them are are under the age of 21. To compare, only 8.7 percent of people who are white that were killed by the police were younger than 21.

This has been an extremely racist mentality still continues post-shooting of Brown. About 75 people have been arrested so far during the protest. Protesters have faced tear gas, mace, rubber bullets while holding up signs saying “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” This all seems too outdated to be happening in 2014.

A common argument that’s used is that many claim Brown reacted in an aggressive manner when being told to have his hands up in the air, causing Wilson to panic in the situation and shoot him. Even if this was really the case, a police officer should be trained how to handle being in a dangerous situation before using a weapon against anybody.

Regardless whether or not Brown had criminal involvements that day, shooting him at point blank range while he was unarmed was definitely an extreme punishment that was not deserved. Wilson’s five-week leave while being paid shows how much the police department at Ferguson will not owe up to its racist actions.

Suggestions to have the Ferguson police station handle the situation in a better way include getting rid of their militarized backup to decrease the amount of violence happening during protests and hiring more officers to match the racial make of the community. The station consists of 53 police officers, with only three being black. Since 67 percent of the population in Ferguson are black, it would help to have them add more officers who are black as well to represent the community more.


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